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Probably the single biggest challenge facing our industry today is that such a large percentage of customers’ IT budgets is taken up by the shear act of maintaining the systems they already have. This situation usually results in scenarios where the amount of money the customer has on hand to acquire new products and technologies, which is the life-blood of the channel, is typically less than 10 percent of the total IT budget in any given year.

The reason this situation exists is largely the fault of a vendor community that for the past 20 years has spent a lot more time on new product features than manageability, which has created a pathetic situation where the single highest cost associated with information technology is labor.

Unfortunately, while things may improve somewhat as companies such as Symantec and IBM devote more of their resources to this problem, the reality is that things may get worse before they get better when you consider the following issues:

  • Virtualization: On the face of it, this should be an improvement because it increases server utilization rates, resulting in the need for fewer servers. But in reality, there are precious few management tools available for virtual servers, so the IT department winds up with two to three times as many virtual servers to manage without any of the limited management tools they used to have when all they had to worry about was physical servers.
  • Storage: Demand for storage is increasing at an alarming rate while utilization rates of storage arrays are typically worse than what we see in server environments. What that means is IT departments are buying more inefficiently managed storage arrays than ever.
  • Security: Defense in depth strategies are all the rage, but there is no real central management system so IT organizations wind up spending more in terms of labor to remediate security risks, all of which consume dollars that might have been available for other IT projects.

    There’s no doubt that solution providers make a fair amount of money servicing the needs of their clients in these particular areas, but on the whole, the amount of time and money being sunk into managing IT substantially limits the number of new IT projects that any customer can engage in. So while there is money to be made helping customers better manage their environments, the truth is that the number of IT products and services that could be delivered may be two to three times what we see today if more money was freed up from managing the basic IT infrastructure.

    View this slide show on the 10 biggest oxymorons in IT management

    And now compounding this problem is the fact that we have a general shortage of IT talent, so at a time when we need more bodies than ever to physically manage things, fewer are available. Solution providers that are increasingly moving to provide managed services are experiencing this first hand because now all the IT management costs are cutting into their bottom line. So paradoxically, the sad state of IT management affairs creates the demand for managed services on the one hand, while the sorry state of the IT management tools available significantly cuts into the profitability of managed services offerings.

    Sadly, this is an issue that has been in the making for 20 years or more, so it won’t go away over night. But if we want to really solve this problem sooner than later, then solution providers and their customers are going to have to band together to exert the political capital necessary to force vendors to pay a lot more attention to manageability. The fact of the matter is that there are far too many hidden and soft costs associated with IT management today that the term itself has become little more than just another oxymoron.